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Australia Looks to America: The Wartime Relationship, 1939-1942 Author(s): G. St. J. Barclay Source: Pacific Historical Review, Vol.

46, No. 2 (May, 1977), pp. 251-271 Published by: University of California Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3637934 . Accessed: 14/06/2011 05:27
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Australia The

Looks

to

America:

Wartime

Relationship,

1939-1942
G. St. J. Barclay
The author is reader in history in the University of Queensland, Australia.

MILITARY COOPERATION between Australia and the United States during the Second World War has been exhaustively treated in some of the most rewarding volumes of the official war histories published by both countries. The development of the postwar relationship between Australia and the United States has similarly emerged as one of the more extensively discussed, if hardly extensively documented, areas of academic writing.1 Of all the many aspects of these fields of study, probably none has continued to excite the interest of historians of
I should like to express my gratitude to Dr. Dean C. Allard, head of the Operational Archives, Naval History Division, Washington Navy Yard, for his assistance in securing archival material on this subject. 'American and Australian historians have naturally viewed the problems of Allied cooperation in the Pacific war from very different perspectives. The fullest and most generous treatment of the Australian contribution from the United States' viewpoint is in Samuel Milner, United States Army in World War II: The War in the Pacific: Victoryin Papua (Washington, D.C., 1957). A far less enthusiastic interpretation is provided by Charles A. Willoughby and John Chamberlain, MacArthur,1941 -1951 (London, 1956). By contrast, no less than seven volumes of the immensely detailed official series, Australia in the War of 1939-1945, are devoted exclusively to Australia's part in the island campaigns. The studies most directly relevant to the period treated are Lionel Wigmore, TheJapanese Thrust(Canberra, 1957), and Dudley McCarthy, Southwest Pacific Area - First Year (Canberra, 1959). Intergovernmental relations and policy formation are discussed in Maurice Matloff and Edwin M. Snell, Strategic Planningfor Coalition and Warfare, 1941-1942 (Washington, D.C., 1962); Paul C. Hasluck, TheGovernment the People, 1942-45 (Canberra, 1968); and Raymond A. Esthus, From Enmity to Alliance (Melbourne, 1965).
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both Australian domestic politics and Australian external relations as much as that reflected in the words of wartime Prime Minister John Curtin, which provide the title to this study. The statement was made in an article published by Curtin in a popular Melbourne newspaperjust after Hong Kong had fallen to the Japanese. Warning the Australian people of their apparent danger, Curtin said: "The Australian Government therefore regards the Pacific struggle as primarily one in which the United States and Australia must have the fullest say in the direction of the democracies' fighting plan. Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom. We know the problems that the United Kingdom faces. We know the constant threat of invasion. We know the dangers of dispersal of strength. But we know, too, that Australia can go, and Britain can still hold on. We are therefore determined that Australia shall not go, and we shall exert all our energies towards the shaping of a plan, with the United States as its keystone, which will give to our country some confidence of being able to hold out until the tide of battle swings against the enemy."2 The words, as was not uncommon with Curtin, were open to considerable interpretation. It is only now, more than thirty years after the event, that archival material has become available that will enable scholars to define precisely the historical context in which Curtin declared this policy, and the extraordinary relationship which subsequently developed between a foreign power and a member of the British Commonwealth. The idea of counting on the United States for support in the event of Japanese aggression was nothing new to Australian thinking. It had been entertained since the turn of the century.3 Paradoxically, it had been virtually abandoned at
2Melbourne Herald, Dec. 27, 1941. There is still no authoritative political biography of Curtin in print, although he is probably the most widely respected of Australian Prime Ministers. The most recent and also the most comprehensive unpublished studies are Michael J. Birgan, "Australia's Relations with the United States and the United Kingdom, 1939-1942" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Queensland, 1976); and Jan F. Nicolaides, "Curtin's View of the Empire" (B.A. thesis, University of Queensland, 1975). 3See, for example, G. P. Taylor, "New Zealand, the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, and the 1908 Visit of the American Fleet," AustralianJournal of Politics and History, XV (1969),

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precisely the time when the Australians felt themselves most in need of external protection, in the global crisis which developed with the coincidence of German expansionism in Europe and Sino-Japanese conflict in the Far East.4 The Australian Cabinet concluded unhappily in December 1938 that United States attitudes towards the British Commonwealth were confused, and United States capacity to assist seriously limited. There was, for example, evidence of "a mood of increasing friendliness towards the United Kingdom," but it was "modified by a great deal of suspicion and combined with a very firm determination not to become embroiled outside the shores of America," which in turn reflected "a certain jealousy of the United Kingdom's position, nourished by the constant suspicion that the United Kingdom was intent on entangling the United States." The Australians were also given to understand that there was not a single operative antitank gun in North America.5 Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies accordingly warned his cabinet on July 5, 1939, that there could be no certainty that the United States would be either willing or able to come to Australia's aid in the event of an attack by Japan. The only consolation was that the Japanese could be no surer about what the United States might do than he was.6 The real situation was in fact more definite but also more complex than Menzies imagined. In May 1939 the British Admiralty had told United States Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral William D. Leahy, that it was preparing a powerful new task force, "Force H," for use in the Mediterranean against the possibility of Italy's allying with Germany and going
55-76; Neville K. Meaney, "A Proposition of the Highest International Importance," Journal of CommonwealthPolitical Studies, V (1967), 200-213; William R. Braisted, The United States Navy in the Pacific, 1909-1922 (Austin, 1971), 163, 411, 442-444. 4The implications of this dual threat to British interests are discussed in Charles C. Bright, "Britain's Search for Security, 1930-1936" (Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University, 1970). 5Memorandum for the Prime Minister from the Minister of External Affairs, Dec. 18, 1938, External Affairs II, Correspondence Files, item 15, USA, file: Commonwealth Record Series (hereafter cited as CRS) A981, Australian Commonwealth Archives Office (hereafter cited as ACAO). 6Records of the Council of Defense, 1935-1939, file: CRS AA1971/216, ACAO. The progressive deterioration of United States-Japanese relations during this period is discussed comprehensively in Herbert Feis, The Road to Pearl Harbor (Princeton, N.J., 1971), and Paul W. Schroeder, The Axis Alliance and Japanese-Relations,1941 (Ithaca, N.Y., 1958).

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to war with Britain and France. This meant, according to the Admiralty, that Britain would not have any heavy ships to spare for the reinforcement of Singapore against a threat from Japan. The British suggested to Leahy that a major portion of the United States Fleet should be stationed at Singapore "for offensive operations against the Japanese in the Southwest Pacific and in the South China Sea."7 Leahy did not agree to this. However, within three weeks the United States Joint Planning Committee had prepared a basic plan, "Rainbow 2," under which the United States would "undertake to sustain the interests of Democratic Powers in the Pacific, to provide for the tasks essential to sustain those interests, and to defeat enemy forces in the Pacific."8 The Australians were told nothing of these exchanges. The British ambassador in Washington, Lord Lothian, assured them that "long before Japanese action threatened Australia or New Zealand, America would be at war," but he did not give any reasons for this belief and indeed prefaced his remarks with the warning that there "is not, I think, any particularly strong feeling in the United States for Australia and New Zealand, though they are popular as young democracies."9 It was thus all the more alarming for the Australian and New Zealand governments when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill abruptly warned them in June 1940, as the French armies
7Tracy B. Kittredge, "U.S.-British Naval Cooperation, 1940-1945" (Ms, Microfilm Job no. 1), World War II Command File, deposited in the Operational Archives, Naval History Division, Washington Navy Yard, 316 (hereafter cited as Washington Navy Yard Archives), file A-9506. The reference to this monograph in a checklist issued in November 1972 by the Naval History Division notes that: "Despite its title, Captain Kittredge only completed this study through the end of 1941." The manuscript has in fact two different titles, both inaccurate, and its pages are not numbered consecutively throughout. It is, nonetheless, still indispensable as a guide to strategic thinking in London as well as in Washington in the period of 1937-1941. The Anglo-American naval discussions during this period are also dealt with in Stephen E. Pelz, Race to Pearl Harbor (Cambridge, Mass., 1974), 193-195, and in G. St.J. Barclay, "Singapore Strategy: The role of the United States in Imperial Defense," Military Affairs, XXXIX (1975), 54-58. 8Memorandum, Joint Planning Committee to Joint Army and Navy Board, June 23, 1939, in Kittredge, "U.S.-British Naval Cooperation," 44, file A-5774A, Washington Navy Yard Archives. 9Lord Lothian to Lord Halifax, Nov. 10, 1939, in New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs, DocumentsRelating to New Zealand'sParticipationin the SecondWorldWar (Wellington, 1963), III, 534 (hereafter cited as N.Z. Docs.).

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withdrew from the environs of Paris, that they would have to rely on the United States to safeguard British interests in the Pacific.10 In the first place, Washington had never given them any real encouragement to count on American support. Moreover, there were obviously some grounds for believing that United States involvement in the Pacific at this stage at least could be positively disadvantageous for the Allied cause. The British ambassador in Tokyo, Sir Robert Craigie, cabled urgently that "our object should be on no account to involve the United States in the war in the Pacific on our behalf. Such involvement would be disastrous to our vital interests since it would divert United States attention from Europe and seriously diminish the extent of United States material assistance at a crucial point."1l Even Robert Menzies was prepared to agree that it possibly "would be contrary to the successful prosecution of the war for the United States to become involved in war in the Pacific." However, he also considered it "imperative at the outset to have a clear indication of United States policy."12 It was absolutely necessary to know what the American plans were before trying to decide whether those plans would be helpful. Australian naval staff officers, disguised in civilian clothes, were despatched to Washington to see what they could find out. What they learned there went far beyond their wildest hopes. Australian naval attache, Commander Henry H. Burrell, noted after talks with Captain Richard K. Turner, director of the plans division of the U.S. Navy, that "on the question of supplies for units in the Far East, it is certain that plans for passage of units and their maintenance do exist... [and] the Director of Plans asked me if I would give him 'a slant' on my ideas for the employment of USA naval forces
'?Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to Governor-General of New Zealand, June 13, 1940, N.Z. Docs., 206, n.2. Correspondence between Winston Churchill and the prime ministers of the other British Dominions was normally transacted directly, on a person-to-person basis. However, correspondence between London and Wellington was usually carried on according to the traditional procedure under which Churchill's letters went under the signature of the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, and the New Zealand Prime Minister's under that of the Governor-General. "Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to Governor-General of New Zealand, July 2, 1940, ibid., 4-8. '2Ibid.

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having in view war with Japan, Germany and Italy.... ,13 United States naval aviator Commander Frederick C. Sherman "was particularly interested in the reinforcement of Singapore via Australia by U.S. Navy aircraft (both land planes and flying boats)."14 What the Australians were not aware of, however, was that Admiral Harold R. Stark, the new United States chief of Naval Operations, was at that very moment preparing a memorandum on "Plan Dog" for Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox. This plan called for "an eventual strong offensive in the Atlantic as an ally of the British, and a defensive in the Pacific."15 Stark, in fact, reaffirmed Admiral Leahy's objection to projecting any part of the United States Fleet as far west as Singapore, believing rather that the British should be encouraged to make a greater military effort in that region themselves. On the same day on which he forwarded Plan Dog to Secretary Knox, Stark wrote to Robert L. Ghormley, the United States representative at naval talks with the British in London, congratulating him on having "apparently begun to convince the British that there is a Western Pacific in which the United States is interested and in which they also have a very great interest."16 Ghormley discussed the general principles of Plan Dog with the British Admiralty on November 22.17 On the same day, Winston Churchill told the First Sea Lord that "Plan D[og] is strategically sound and also most highly adapted to our A strict defensive in the Far East and the acceptinterests.... ance of its consequences is also our policy."18 It was never to be the Australian policy. But circumstances
"'Record by Commander Henry H. Burrell, Royal Australian Navy, of a conversation with Admiral James O. Henderson, director of Naval Intelligence, United States Navy, Nov. 19, 1940, "Courtmartial, Conferences, etc., Notes of Commander Burrell," file N.A. 22/4/47, National Archives of New Zealand (hereafter cited as NANZ). 'Richard G. Casey to Minister of External Affairs, Canberra, Nov. 25, 1940, ibid. 'SMemorandum for the Secretary, Nov. 12, 1940, in Kittredge, "U.S.-British Naval Cooperation," 253-264, file A-9505, Washington Navy Yard Archives. The development of the Atlantic first strategy and the subsequent formation of the United States Atlantic Fleet and its involvement in the "undeclared war" against Germany are comprehensively discussed in Patrick J. Abbizia, "Mr. Roosevelt's Navy: The Little War of the United States Atlantic Fleet, 1939-1942" (M.A. thesis, Columbia University, 1972). '6Harold R. Stark to Robert L. Ghormley, Nov. 12, 1940, in Kittridge, "U.S.-British Naval Cooperation," 272. '7"Record of a Meeting Held at the Admiralty on 22nd November 1940," ibid., 276287. "8Prime Minister, United Kingdom, to First Lord and First Sea Lord, Nov. 22, 1940, in Winston Churchill, Their Finest Hour (London, 1967), 544.

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were combining to encourage the Australians to believe that the United States was at least committed to a strategy quite different from the "Atlantic first" concept formulated by Admiral Stark and endorsed by Winston Churchill. The Australian officers were never shown a copy of Plan Dog. Casey and Commander Burrell were, however, shown a copy of one of Ghormley's earlier reports on November 20 during talks with Navy Secretary Frank Knox and Stanley K. Hornbeck, the political adviser to the State Department. They formed the impression from reading the report that "these conversations have not led us any further along the path of an agreed grand strategy in the event of American cooperation." Nor, they believed, "did the Ghormley conversations in fact discuss the situation which might arise in the Far East."19This impression was justifiable at the time. They would have reported differently to Canberra if they had seen the report of a meeting which took place at the British Admiralty two days later, in which the "Atlantic first" strategy was recognized as the basis of Anglo-American defense planning, and its implications for the Far East accepted. Thus, the Australian attempt to secure "a clear indication of United States policy" succeeded only in confirming the Australian government in the completely erroneous impression that the United States was assigning strategic priority to the Pacific. Everything conspired to reinforce this delusion. In the first place, the continued exclusion of Australians from the Anglo-American staff talks meant that they could only guess at the direction these talks might be taking. The Australian Department of External Affairs still assumed in January 1941 that "Little progress . . has been reported in the proposal for AngloAmerican staff conversations," noting glumly that President Franklin D. Roosevelt "agreed to complete the confidential staff conversations ... which had begun in London, but it is apparently not intended that Australia should participate in these."20 More importantly, American attitudes toward Australia
"Richard G. Casey to Minister of External Affairs, Nov. 20, 1940, in "Courtmartial, Conferences, etc., Notes of Commander Burrell." 2Memorandum from Minister of External Affairs for Department of Defense Co-ordination, Jan. 16, 1941, file: "British Policy in the Pacific," CRS A816, ACAO.

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seemed to become increasingly friendly, while relations between Canberra and London became more unsatisfactory.21 An American naval force of two cruisers and five destroyers visited Sydney and Brisbane in March 1941 at a time when relations between the Australian and British governments, as a result of Australian misgivings about the conduct of the British campaign in Greece, had been strained to an unprecedented degree. The American sailors received the most enthusiastic welcomes ever accorded any visitors to the continent. Australian Acting Prime Minister Arthur Fadden said that nothing in the life of the Australian people had stirred and thrilled them so much as the visit by the United States Navy at such a time. Certainly, nothing could ever have relieved them so much. Then, at the end of May, the Australian and New Zealand governments received from Admiral Stark himself what seemed to amount to a guarantee of United States protection. As the New Zealand chiefs of staff reported, The U.S. authoritieswere asked ... what protectionwould be given to French territory, interalia, in the Pacificarea. The reply of 29th May may be briefly summarised as follows: (a) The U.S. authorities have no intention of providing garrisons except as may be necessary to protect U.S. bases. (b) The U.S. authorities consider that defence of territory is the responsibility of the Power having sovereignty over the territory. (c) On the question of support the following comment is made: "On the other hand C. N. O. would view occupation by Axis forces of British and French Islands in the PacificOcean south of the Equator as inimical to Associatedand U.S. interests. He would, therefore, expect the U.S. PacificFleet to take such steps as would prevent the overseas occupation and the permanent support of such garrisons as the Axis Powers might seek to establish in these Islands. C. N. O. would not undertake to prevent minor raids against these Islands although he is confi21See, for example, the correspondence between General Sir Thomas Blamey, commander-in-chief, Australian Imperial Force, and Prime Minister Robert Menzies, in Barton Maugham, Australia in the War of 1939-1945, Tobrukand El Alamein (Canberra, 1966), 306, 334; correspondence between Winston Churchill and Robert Menzies, in Churchill, Their Finest Hour, 659; and correspondence between Churchill and John Curtin, ibid., 333-335.

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dent U.S. forces in the pacific would, in case such raids occurred, be alert to take advantage of the opportunity for inflicting loss upon the enemy."22

This might have seemed a sufficiently unequivocal assurance of American support. However, the Australians could not fail to observe that the private promises of United States naval officers were decidedly not being matched by public statements of United States foreign policy. When the Japanese moved into Thailand in August 1941, Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies "noted with regret that Mr. Sumner Welles' warning to Japan seemed to indicate that the objectionable matter would not be the occupation of Thailand but only what might happen subsequently," although he still felt sure that "if we are prepared to fight, America will not in fact desert us."23Australian Labor leader John Curtin went considerably further: Australia should "bring pressure on the USA to knock Japan out now."24 Unfortunately, he could not suggest what pressure Australia might use to bring about this desired result. In any event, Churchill and the British chiefs of staff were particularly anxious to avoid any measures which might aggravate tensions in the Far East, for a new winter offensive was planned in Egypt, in which the Australian and New Zealand divisions would again have to play the leading combat role. Fearful that the Dominion governments might recall the divisions for the defense of their homelands, London suggested that the Japanese threat in the Far East was receding. Japan, Winston Churchill stated reassuringly, would probably lie quiet for a while because of its doubts about Russian intentions.25 Churchill was wrong. He was also too late. The Australians were already becoming aware of new grounds for anxiety: their minister-designate to Chungking, Sir Frederic Eggleston, on a fact-finding tour of the Far East, noted with horror the
22Memorandum from New Zealand Joint Chiefs of Staff for the War Cabinet, Oct. 29, 1941, C.O.S. 102, "Files of the Governor," G50(9), NANZ. 23Prime Minister of Australia to Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, Aug. 11, 1941, in N.Z. Docs., 54-55. 24Paul C. Hasluck, Australia in the War of 1939-1945: The Government and the People, 1939-42 (Canberra, 1952), 320. 25Frederic Eggleston, Diary, Sept. 11, 1940, file NS 423/19/10-11, Frederic Eggleston Papers, National Library of Australia, Canberra.

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hopeless state of both British and Dutch defenses in Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies.26 Curtin, now prime minister, appealed to Churchill for some clear directive on the Pacific situation. He was told that the only policy for the British empire was "to march in line with the United States."27But the problem was that the United States had not yet made it completely clear when and where it would be marching. In the meantime, regardless of what Roosevelt might intend to do, Curtin believed there were certain courses of action the British empire should be prepared to take: it should continue to give all aid to China short of war; it should not support Thailand without United States collaboration, but it should occupy the Kra Isthmus in the southern part of that country in the event of Japanese aggression; it should respond with a declaration of war to any Japanese attack on Russia; and it should give assurances of armed support to the Netherlands East Indies and to Portuguese Timor.28 Churchill did not reply directly to these proposals. Instead, he informed Curtin of developments which could be regarded as by far the most encouraging yet for the British empire in the Far East. On December 2, President Roosevelt had assured British Ambassador Lord Halifax of United States support in the event of a Japanese attack on the British empire. He confirmed on December 4 that this assurance would extend to military support.29 However, Churchill neglected to remind the Dominion governments that Roosevelt could not actually commit the United States to war in defense of the British empire without the approval of Congress. Pearl Harbor, of course, solved all such procedural problems-as Eggleston noted: "I laughed when I heard of it, for the whole of our diplomacy had been directed to getting the USA into the war in the Pacific, and here was Japan doing it for us."30 Eggleston and the other Australian leaders were not likely to have found much else to laugh at in the situation facing them.
26Eggleston, Diary, Sept. 11, 1940, file MS 423/19/24, ibid. 27Hasluck, The Governmentand the People, 554. 28Ibid.,555. 2See Raymond A. Esthus, "President Roosevelt's Commitments to Britain to Intervene in a Pacific War," Mississippi ValleyHistorical Review, L (1963), 28-38. 30Eggleston, Diary, Dec. 8, 1941, file MS 423/9/1051, Eggleston Papers.

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Within two weeks of the initial Japanese attacks, the United States Pacific Fleet was virtually out of action; the Japanese were landing on Hong Kong island; the Malayan front was cracking; Burma had been invaded; General Douglas MacArthur's strategy for the defense of the Philippines lay in ruins; and the only two British capital ships in the Pacific had been ignominiously sunk by underrated Japanese air power. Australia's own military position was hopeless: there were only 18 tanks in the whole continent, and the only modern aircraft possessed by the Royal Australian Air Force were 53 Hudsons, only 40 of which had fully trained crews, 12 of which were already committed to service in Malaya. In this situation, Churchill's reassurance that there was no "large scale threat to Australia and much less to New Zealand" was not likely to be well received in Canberra or Wellington.31 The British Prime Minister's untimely reminder that Germany was still being regarded as the main enemy served to convince Curtin that help could be expected from only one quarter, the United States. American assistance was indeed already on the way: as early as December 12 General Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. deputy chief of staff for the Pacific and Far East, had decided to reroute the Pensacola convoy to Brisbane instead of Manila, as had originally been intended. Obviously, more than this would be needed to defend Australia. On December 23 Curtin accordingly instructed Richard G. Casey, Australian minister in Washington, to inform President Roosevelt that "Reinforcements earmarked by the United Kingdom for despatch to
Malaya seem to us to be utterly inadequate .... Our resources

here are very limited indeed. It is in your power to meet the situation."32 A further communication was sent from Canberra the following day, claiming that "deterioration of war position in Malayan defence is assuming landslide collapse of whole
defence system.... Present measures for reinforcement of

"Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to Prime Minister of Australia, Dec. 11, 1941, in N.Z. Docs., 110. 32Richard G. Casey to President Roosevelt, Dec. 23, 1941, in U.S. Dept. of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1941: The Far East (Washington, D.C., 1956), V, 390-391.

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Malayan defences can from the practical viewpoint be little more than gestures ... Need for decision and action is matter of hours, not days."33 Having told the Americans what he expected from them, Curtin now revealed his views on global strategy to the Australian public. He did so in the article quoted at the outset of this paper. He also took the opportunity to remind the Russians of their responsibilities. Referring to Australia's declarations of war against Finland, Hungary, and Rumania, after those countries had attacked Russia, he announced that "with equal realism, we take the view that while the determination of military policy is the Soviet's business, we should be able to look forward with reason to aid from Russia against Japan." But Curtin's main concern was to reject Churchill's concept of regarding Germany as the main enemy, and to insist that "we refuse to accept the dictum that the Pacific struggle must be treated as a subordinate segment of the general conflict."34 In view of the mood of Australian party politics, it was inevitable that Curtin's words would be interpreted by his political opponents as proof that the Labor government had "almost completely turned its back on Great Britain."35Curtin, in fact, was merely responding to a situation in which there seemed considerable danger that Britain might be turning its back on Australia. Unable to restore the situation in the Far East themselves, the British might still be unwilling to abandon a strategic concept which envisaged Germany as the major enemy. His fears were more than justified. The British were not only clinging to an "Atlantic first" strategy themselves, but were actively trying to ensure that the United States also continued to abide by the principles of Plan Dog. British staff officers in Washington were so fearful that the Americans might become "too Pacific-minded" that they opposed a suggestion by Admiral Ernest J. King, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Fleet, to
33Reginald G. Casey to Sumner Welles, Dec. 24, 1941, ibid., 393-394. 34MelbourneHerald, Dec. 27, 1941. Curtin's article was the first public appeal for United States assistance made by an Australian prime minister. However, Robert Menzies, with the knowledge of his ministers, had himself written to Roosevelt three times in 1940, seeking American intervention. See P. G. Edwards, "R. G. Menzie's Appeals to the United States, May-June, 1940," Australian Outlook, XXVIII (April 1974), 64-70. 35Commonwealth ParliamentaryDebates, Senate (March 15, 1944), 1306-1307.

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set up a Southwest Pacific War Council, on which Australia and New Zealand would also be represented.36 Curtin would presumably not have been surprised by these maneuvers had he known about them at the time. This was what he had come to expect from the British. What was to come as a total shock to him was the revelation that the British had not been trying to impose their own strategic views on the Americans, but were rather attempting to ensure that the Americans remained faithful to a concept of global war originating in the office of the U.S. chief of Naval Operations. This was, in fact, the concept reaffimed by the American and British chiefs of staff in Washington on December 31, 1941. "Germany," they concluded, "is still the prime enemy .... Once Germany is defeated, the collapse of Italy and the defeat of Japan must follow. In our considered opinion, therefore,... only the minimum of force necessary for the safeguarding of vital interests in other theatres should be diverted from operations against Germany."37Essentially, this merely reaffimed the principle expounded in Plan Dog thirteen months earlier by Harold Stark. To the Australians, however, it appeared as if an unsympathetic British viewpoint had triumphed. They reacted appropriately. Curtin's minister for external affairs, Herbert V. Evatt, instructed Sir Frederic Eggleston to try to persuade Chiang Kai-shek to put pressure on the British to reverse this decision.8 Curtin's own behavior amply justified a warning from the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to Churchill about "the present rather cantankerous attitude of the Commonwealth [Australian] Government."39 In the bitterest exchange yet between the two governments, Curtin told Churchill that "the evacuation of Singapore would be regarded here and elsewhere as an inexcusable betrayal. . . , the more so since
36Grace P. Hayes, "The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in World War II: The War against Japan, Vol. 1, Pearl Harbor through Trident," 1943 (Ms, Microfilm Job no. F-108), p. 46, World War II Command File, deposited in the Operational Archives, Naval History Division, Washington Navy Yard. 37"Memorandum by the United States and British Chiefs of Staff," Dec. 31, 1941, in U.S. Dept. of State, Foreign Relations of the United States: Conferencesat Washington, 1941-42, and Casablanca, 1943 (Washington, D.C., 1968), 214-215. 38Eggleston, Diary, Jan. 25, 1942, file MS 423/9/1934, Eggleston Papers. 39Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to Prime Minister, United Kingdom, Jan. 17, 1942, Operational Papers of the Prime Minister's office, file PREM 3, 167/1, 1246, Public Record Office.

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the Australian people, having volunteered for service overseas in large numbers, find it difficult to understand why they must wait so long for an improvement in the situation when irreparable damage may have been done to their power to resist, the prestige of Empire, and the solidarity of the Allied cause."40 Having reproached the British, Curtin looked to America. On January 26, 1942, Curtin sent President Roosevelt a copy of another cable to Winston Churchill requesting that two Australian divisions should be returned home from the Middle East. In his covering note to Roosevelt, Curtin pointed out that "We are now, with a small population in the only white man's territory south of the equator, beset grievously. Because we have added to our contribution in manpower so much of our resources and materials we now lack adequacy for forces of our homeland on our own soil."41Roosevelt referred the communication to Eisenhower, who, as he informed U.S. Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, had also received at the same time a message from Major General Lewis H. Brereton, United States military commander in Australia, which endorsed Curtin's views on the state of Australia's defenses. General Brereton said unequivocally that there was "no, repeat no, adequate defense available." Moreover, Brereton considered the command situation in Australia so bad that it was necessary to impose "a strong centralized control of internal Australian politics under American influence."42 This seemed tantamount to suggesting that the United States should establish a kind of protectorate over Australia. Eisenhower noted reasonably that both cables reflected "extraordinary uneasiness of mind" on the parts of their authors."43What was at least evident was that the Australian defense situation needed urgent improvement, if only to restore public morale. Major General George H. Brett, deputy supreme commander of the American-British-Dutch-Australian front (ABDA), com40Prime Minister of Australia to Prime Minister, United Kingdom, Jan. 23, 1942, in Churchill, Their Finest Hour, 50-51. 4"Prime Minister of Australia to Prime Minister, United Kingdom, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jan. 21, 1942, in Alfred D. Chandler, ed., The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower, the War Years (Baltimore, 1970), I, 77, n.1. 42Lewis H. Brereton to George C. Marshall, Jan 26, 1942 ibid., 78, n.2. 43Dwight D. Eisenhower to General Marshall, Jan. 27, 1942, ibid.

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plained that the Australian government appeared to be obsessed with the defense of its own coastline to the exclusion of any other military interest.44 Eisenhower tried to calm Australian fears by diverting a fighter group of eighty aircraft for service with the RAAF. This in turn provoked a protest from the British against these ad hoc concessions to the Dominion governments. Robert L. Ghormley, now U.S. commander-inchief, South Pacific, commented later that "the British were prone to neglect giving what to my mind was proper consideration and evaluation to Japan, as a probable enemy.... I do not believe that they came to a full realization of the power of the Japanese offensive and the weakness of their defenses, until Singapore fell."45 But in fact the United States position on the Atlantic first strategy was becoming at least equally removed from the Australian view. A minority recommendation at a U.S. joint chiefs of staff meeting on February 18 actually proposed leaving the British empire in the South Pacific to its own devices on the grounds that "it must be accepted that we are unable to establish a system of bases and forces, so disposed as to give depth to the defense of the line between Hawaii and Australia."46 Eisenhower had not quite reached this point. However, by February 28 he had concluded that "in the event of a war involving both oceans, the United States should adopt the strategic defensive in the Pacific and devote its major offensive effort across the Atlantic. .. ." This analysis, which of course simply restated the principles of Plan Dog, necessarily involved relegating the security of Australia to the category of things highly desirable and approaching the necessary, but not "necessaryto the ultimate defeat of the Axis Powers."47 Sir Frederic Eggleston, at least, had fully comprehended the situation by this stage. He noted in his diary that "The British appear to have taken up the attitude that the Far East must be sacrificed, if necessary, to the other theatres of war and to have
4Grace P. Hayes, "The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in World War II," 90. 4Robert L. Ghormley, "South Pacific Command History," 1943 (Ms, Microfilm Job no. NRS-161), pp. 4-6, World War II Command File, deposited in the Operational Archives, Naval History Division, Washington Navy Yard. 46Matloff and Snell, StrategicPlanningfor Coalition Warfare, 160. 47Eisenhower to George C. Marshall, Feb. 28, 1942, in Alfred D. Chandler, ed., The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower: The War Years, I, 149-155.

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agreed with the Americans on this point."48 However, John Curtin and his foreign minister, Herbert Evatt, still hoped to achieve some modifications of the Atlantic first strategy through appeals to the United States. Their next efforts were perhaps not intended to be devious but were certainly confusing. Evatt began directly enough by suggesting to General Marshall on March 23 that the "United States should stop all shipments to Russia, the Middle East and other areas, and send everything available immediately to Australia."49Curtin then sent a cable to Winston Churchill, claiming that General MacArthur wanted two British divisions to be sent to Australia "until such time as the 9 A.I.F. Division and the remainder of 6 Division are returned" from the Middle East.50 Meanwhile, Herbert Evatt gave Presidential Adviser Harry Hopkins a copy of a similar letter from Curtin to himself, for reference to President Roosevelt. These unorthodox methods naturally created some confusion. Churchill asked Roosevelt if the Curtin-MacArthur request had been authorized in Washington. Roosevelt referred the matter to General Marshall, who wrote a reproving letter to MacArthur. MacArthur claimed in reply that he knew nothing of the correspondence. Roosevelt characteristically smoothed the matter over, assuring MacArthur that "I see no reason why you should not continue discussion of military matters with the Australian Prime Minister,
48Eggleston, Diary, March 4, 1942, file MS 423/9/1466, Eggleston Papers. 49Hayes, "The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in World War II," 173. Coincidentally, Evatt's rather excessive plea for help was made just ten days after the Japanese prime minister and chiefs of staff had recommended to the emperor that "the question of whether to adopt new and more positive measures for war guidance," such as the invasion of India and Australia, "should be decided after careful study, not only of the war gains acquired so far, but other factors of extensive and profound significance; such as, the enemy's national power and ours, especially the increase in the fighting power on both sides; the progress of our operations, our relations with the Soviet Union and China, the German-Soviet war, and various other factors." ("General Outline of Policy of Future War Guidance, adopted by Liaison Conference, 7 March 1942, and Report of Prime Minister and Chiefs of Staff to Emperor, 13 March 1942," in Louis Morton, Strategyand Command:The First Two Years[Washington, D.C., 1962], 610-613.) This implies that the Japanese would have invaded only after the victory of the Axis on all fronts had been assured, in which case the invasion would hardly have been necessary. In fact, Japanese plans for offensive operations in the South Pacific area never went beyond the establishment of bases in eastern New Guinea. See "Japanese Army-Navy Central Agreement concerning South Pacific Area Operations ... Jan. 4, 1943," in Morton, Strategyand Command,624-626. 50Chandler, ed., The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower:The War Years, I, 273, n. 1.

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but I hope you will try to have him treat them as confidential matters, and not use them for public messages or for appeals to Churchill and me."51 Roosevelt made his own position on the Atlantic first strategy quite unmistakeable when he reiterated on the following day, in a statement of his views of strategy addressed to his principal military advisers, that the current approach in the Pacific should be "a continuous day to day maintenance of existing positions and existing strength" and that "the only large scale offensive operation is to be in the
European area."52

For Curtin and Evatt, the implications were clear. There was no more point in looking to America for support of the Australian point of view than there had been in looking to Britain. Neither, however, was prepared to concede that his own strategic conceptions might have been at fault, or that he had been at all unreasonable in his hopes that the British and Americans could be persuaded to reverse the principles agreed on in Washington in December 1941. Evatt did not hesitate to blame Australia's own diplomatic representatives, as well as the British and United States chiefs of staff. He complained angrily to Curtin that "other Service Chiefs who laid down a general strategic policy are loath to admit any fundamental error.... The strategy contemplated Germany's defeat before that of Japan. In a phrase, it was 'beat Hitler first.' The existence of this written agreement came as a great surprise to myself, and I have no doubt, to you. We were not consulted about the matter and neither Page nor Casey ever reported to us about it."53
5lMemorandum from President Roosevelt to Chiefs of Staff, May 5, 1942, in Hayes, "The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in World War II," 181. 52Matloff and Snell, StrategicPlanningfor Coalition Warfare, 220-222. 53Herbert V. Evatt to John Curtin, May 14 and 28, 1942, in C. Hermon Gill, Australia in the War of 1939-1945: Royal Australian Navy, 1942-45 (Canberra, 1964), 106. This was not strictly accurate. There was no "written agreement" on the Atlantic first strategy before the Washington Conference of December 1941, details of which were soon made known to the Australian government. There were, of course, written statements or references relating to the concept. Stark had formulated it as a memorandum for Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox; Ghormley had discussed it at a meeting at the British Admiralty, minutes of which had been recorded; and Winston Churchill had approved the general idea in a letter to the First Sea Lord. None of these documents had been shown to either Casey or to Sir Earle Page, who went to London as special envoy for John Curtin on September 22, 1941. In December 1940 Casey certainly became concerned at "the possibility that a sense of competition might develop between the Atlantic area and the Pacific area," which he believed would be "a false conception,

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Curtin, for his part, grumbled sarcastically that "people thousands of miles from here consider that Australia is in no great danger."54 Even those United States commanders who had shown themselves to be unimpeachably Pacific-minded were not spared his disapproval. He had himself assured General MacArthur on April 17 that orders issued by him as supreme commander of the Southwest Pacific Area were to be considered "as emanating from the Commonwealth Government."55 Now he complained that MacArthur's appointment made "Australia subject to a form of direction by a representative of another Government." On learning that Admiral Ernest J. King, now United States chief of Naval Operations, was to attend a meeting of chiefs of staff in London, Curtin commented that "It doesn't bode much good for us."56 Nobody would be likely to argue the case for a greater military effort in the Pacific with more authority or determination than Admiral King, but Curtin was apparently unwilling to concede that anything good could be expected from the United States. He noted sarcastically on September 14 that the British were "still putting up the same case to Santa Claus [Roosevelt] as we have been putting up since January."57
in that there was no advantage in Australia being momentarily safe at the expense of increased menace to Britain. The main objective was to check and then to defeat Germany." (Lord Casey, Personal Experience,1939-1946 [London, 1962], 44.) In other words, Casey did not know that the United States had opted for an Atlantic first strategy, but he presumably would have considered such a decision to be in Australia's interests. Sir Earle Page, for his part, had been welcomed by Winston Churchill with the assurance that a British fleet would be sent to Singapore, although no more aircraft were to be sent to the Far East, despite Page's warning that "by refraining from acting in the Indies . .. [Britain] could, at this critical stage, split the Empire asunder." (Sir Earle Page, Truant Surgeon [Sydney, 1963], 310-216.) Page accordingly was aware only that reinforcements were in fact being sent to the Pacific area, even if they were not the kind of reinforcements John Curtin had told him to ask for. 54Record of a conversation between Prime Minister John Curtin and his press secretary, July 1, 1942, file MS 4675(2), John Curtin Papers, National Library of Australia, Canberra. 55Samuel Milner, Victoryin Papua (Washington, D.C., 1957), 22. 56Record of a conversation between Curtin and his press secretary, Aug. 28, 1942, file MS 4675(20), Curtin Papers. Curtin was, of course, being wholly unjust to Admiral King, who had written to President Roosevelt six months previously that "Australiaand New Zealand-are 'white man's countries' which it is essential that we shall not allow to be overrun by the Japanese because of the repercussions among the non-white races of the world." Memorandum for the President, March 5, 1942, in Ernest J. King and Walter Muir Whitehill, Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record (London, 1953), 175-176. Curtin would have agreed wholeheartedly with this point of view. 57Record of a conversation between Curtin and his press secretary, Sept. 14, 1942, file MS 4675(24), Curtin Papers.

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which would Indeed, Curtin was already planning a demarche indicate vividly how little Australia was inclined at this stage either to seek favors or to grant them. As the Japanese fell back from Port Moresby, Curtin requested Churchill to send the Australian Ninth Division home from the Middle East. There was probably no occasion when such a demand would have been actually convenient, but Curtin's demand was certainly extraordinarily ill-timed. The British Eighth Army was about to begin its offensive at El Alamein; the situation in the Solomons was critical; and the invasion of French North Africa (TORCH) was scheduled to take place within three weeks.58 President Roosevelt attempted on September 16 to persuade the Australian Prime Minister to reconsider: "I am confident," he told Curtin, "that you appreciate fully the necessity of rigidly pursuing our over-all strategy that envisages the early and decisive defeat of Germany in order that we can quickly undertake an all-out effort in the Pacific.... I cannot too strongly stress that leaving the 9th AIF Division in the Middle East will best serve our common cause."59 Curtin was unmoved. Roosevelt then referred the issue to the combined chiefs of staff, who reported that "first, there were no military arguments whatsoever which would justify the movement of the 9th Australian Division and the 2nd New Zealand Division from the Middle East; second, that though it would be possible to find personnel shipping by cutting on other projects, the shipping required to carry the troops to the Dominions would not be available for any other urgent troop movements for about three months." Indeed, as the report continued, "every military argument is against the move.... Such a move would involve a definite reduction of the impact upon the enemy in 1943, and a major diversion of shipping resources which are urgently required for other troop movements."60 These arguments weighed heavily with the New Zealanders, but they had no effect on Curtin. Churchill gave up the struggle and made arrangements independently of the United States to have all Australian troops in the Middle East returned home by early 1943. The New Zealanders stayed.
58Hayes, "The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in World War II," 234. 59Roosevelt to Curtin, Sept. 16, 1942, in Gill, Royal Australian Navy, 106, 188. '6Hayes, "The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in World War II," 236.

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This victory over Roosevelt and the Allied chiefs of staff did not seem to placate or reassure Curtin at all. It did not even alter his attitude towards Churchill. As far as he was concerned, Australia was still "WSC's [Churchill's] forgotten land." Addressing appeals to Roosevelt or Churchill was alike useless: "They had made up their minds that if the British Empire in the Far East had to go, it had to go. The only part which had not gone was Australia." As Curtin looked out from his embattled but hardly beleaguered island continent at the end of 1942, he commented to his press secretary: "Two hundred and seventy planes went over Europe last night, but by Christ we can't get any here."61 Sir Frederic Eggleston, who had a considerable faculty for reflecting the moods of others, had long before suggested some of the reasons for the bitter mood of the Australians to Sir Horace Seymour, the British ambassador to Chungking: "The difficulties of the Australian Government should be appreciated. They had sent away all their best troops and 10,000 air personnel, had made munitions for overseas requirements, made bombers but no fighters, postponed the construction of tanks for other work in pursuance of an Empire scheme of strategy which contemplated Singapore as impregnable."62 This was, of course, only part of the story. The Australian leaders resented these very serious practical problems all the more because they had acquired through their informal contacts with the United States certain misconceptions about the thrust of American strategic planning. Curtin had looked to America after the collapse of British power in the Far East because there was nowhere else to look and because the reports of Australian missions to the United States indicated that Australia could expect massive American aid. What he was not aware of at the time was that the United States was already committed to an Atlantic first strategy, and that this strategy would be resolutely adhered to, despite the calamities occurring in the Pacific. His reactions were undoubtedly excessive, but the military position of Australia in 1942 was hardly
61Record of conversation between Curtin and his press secretary, Dec. 30, 1942, file MS 4675(44), Curtin Papers. 62Eggleston, Diary, Feb. 27, 1942, file MS 423/9/1419, Eggleston Papers.

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favorable to objective reasoning or self-criticism. The experiences and mistakes of the past two years fostered a mood of resentment and distrust of the United States, the outcome of which was that the man, who had been most vocal in the months immediately after Pearl Harbor in seeking the maximum American involvement in the Pacific and the Far East, was to become equally dedicated after 1942 to the restoration of traditional British colonial influence in the region.63

63See references in footnote 22; see also Robin Kay, ed., Documentson New Zealand External Relations, Vol. 1, The Australian-NewZealandAgreement,1944 (Wellington, 1972), 47-48; John J. Dedman, "Encounter over Manus," Australian Outlook,XX (1966), 135183; Roger Bell, "Australian-American Discord: Negotiations for Post-War Bases and Security Arrangements in the Pacific, 1944-1946," ibid., XXVII (1973), 12-33.